APPLE RIVER CANYON STATE PARK
Apple River Canyon State Park is in the hilly northwest art of Illinois in Jo Daviess County near the Wisconsin border. This scenic canyon area was formed by the action of the winding waters of Apple River. Limestone bluffs, deep ravines, springs, streams and wildlife characterize this area which was once a part of a vast sea bottom that stretched from the Alleghenies to the Rockies.
The 297-acre park was purchased by the State of Illinois in 1932. Apple River is also in charge of other sites in JoDaviess County, Apple River Canyon State Park - Thompson and Salem Units, Witkowsky Wildlife Area, Tapley Woods, Hanover Bluff Natural Area, Hanover Bluff Nature Preserve, Wards Grove Nature Preserve, McKeague Unit Nature Preserve and Falling Down Prairie.
Flowing endlessly for countless centuries, the Apple River has cut through the masses of limestone, dolomite and shale until massive cliffs now rise high above the water and canyons have formed. Vast ages of water and erosion widened and deepened the crevices as rivers and streams cut their way through the stone. Close-up views of the colorful canyon reveal walls dotted with mosses, lichens and tenacious bushes which have found crevices to hold their roots on the sheer walls.
The glacial sweep which ironed out hills and filled valleys in other parts of the state left this area unscratched. This circumstance accounts for the large number of fossil remains to be found near the surface here. It also was responsible for the easy availability of the lead veins that has much to do with the early development of this section of Illinois.
The park contains such wildlife as deer, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, eagles, hawks and 47 varieties of birds. At least 14 different ferns and over 500 different herbaceous plants and 165 varieties of flowers can be seen throughout the park.
Joutel, who was in the Mississippi Valley in 1687 and who was later to record LaSalle's expedition, wrote tales of Indian lead mines told by travelers to the "Upper Mississippi." The first white man to see the lead mines was Nicholas Perrot, a French trader who settled on the east side of the Mississippi in 1690. The first to exploit them was a Scotch adventurer, John Law. His Company of the West, founded in Paris in 1717 on the fraudulent claim that the Illinois lead mines were well-developed, collapsed with a thud, which was heard all over France and went down in history as the "Mississippi Bubble." In the nineteenth century American settlers arrived, the Sauk and Fox Indians were driven out in the Black Hawk War and Galena, thriving on the profits of lead mining, became a roaring boom town. Miners by the hundreds entered this country through a canyon which is now one of the principal attractions of the Apple River Canyon State Park.
The town of Millville was established where the park is now, but not a trace of it remains. Named after its two sawmills, Millville became a stop on the Galena-Chicago stage route and flourished until 1854 when the Illinois Central Railroad, building its line from Freeport to Galena, passed four miles north of the town. In 1892 a devastating flood washed out the dam, swept away many buildings and drove out the people of the town forever.
Full Hookup Sitesyes
The park offers 47 Class "C" sites without showers and also two handicap accessible sites. Reservations are not accepted, sites are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. Camping permits must be obtained at the park office. Walnut Grove offers youth group camping and requires a reservation. The reservation form is available on this website or may be obtained by contacting the park office. Winter camping is available from 11/1 - 4/15 in our Walnut Grove Youth area only.